#13 It’s By Faith!
We are returning to our series on Romans and as it is Lord’s Supper Sunday let us see how this passage applies to this blessed event. The Christian life is a life of faith. Our beloved brother Peter speaks of the mysterious union of Christ to His children; that it is a union of faith. We believe that God is and He is a rewarder of them who diligently seek Him; (1Pe 1:8) “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,”
Christians live by faith. And we’re not talking about blind faith either. Christians aren’t groping around in the dark hoping against hope that we will find the truth, the answers for this life. Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God who brings to our remembrance all that Jesus said. He is our eternal comforter who leads us into all truth and teaches us the meaning of the Holy Scriptures. So our faith is a tangible thing!
In fact, what is the biblical definition of faith? How about this; (Heb 11:1 ESV) “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Does this passage make sense? How about a different version! (Heb 11:1 NIV) “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” William Tyndale translated (Heb 11:1) this way; “Faith is a sure confidence of things which are hoped for, and a certainty of things which are not seen.” Ok, even with all of that, do you understand what faith means?
Do you understand that our hope, our trust for the salvation and resurrection of our souls is in Jesus Christ who is the Eternal God? Do you know salvation in Jesus Christ as a present experience every day of your life? Are you conscious of walking in His presence every moment? And after all these questions comes the one that lost men would ask you; “HOW DO YOU KNOW?!”
For the answer you need look no further than your own life. Ask yourself this question; Am I what I once was? That is, is my life the same as it has always been or has there been a radical transformation in my life so that the things I once loved I now hate and the things I used to hate I now love. Let’s make it even clearer. You used to love sin and you practiced it with gusto, with vigor! Do you still love sin? Do you still practice sin in the same manner as when you were lost? If the answer is no then you could say; Here is evidence that I have been born again.
But let’s go even further. You may have made some outward reformations such as shunning sin and embracing ‘good things.’ Now the question is; WHY? Why have you made these changes? And are they consistent? That is, whereas you once practiced sin, do you now practice righteousness? And what is your motivation for doing so? Did someone tell you that to get out of hell and into heaven you must do good things? You know that such an idea is of the devil for even he knows that all of our righteousness is merely filthy rags in God’s sight. Those who engage in such activity believing that it will gain them the ends they are striving for are merely trying to work out a righteousness of their own. There is a way that seems right to a man but the end of their ways is death!
There is only one way to heaven and this is an absolute fact. Jesus Christ Himself said so! Now who is Jesus? He is God almighty is He not? John 1:18, 8:58, and other passages testify to this truth. Consider john 14:6 with me. Jesus had been speaking of His betrayal and death. He had told Peter about his impending denial and had then sought to comfort His disciples saying “You believe God…you have faith in God, you trust God…then you may believe Me! He then spoke of the heavenly home awaiting all true disciples. Thomas questioned Him as to the way to these mansions.
His response is well known; (John 14:6) “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. Jesus is the only way to get to heaven. If you desire to see the Father you’re going to have to pass through Jesus for He is the only Door! He is the only way to the Father. He is the exact representation, the true representation of the Father. And He is the one who bestows eternal life that comes from the Father! Now if you believe what Jesus just said then your life should reflect that belief; that pisteuw. When Jesus spoke of believing, “You believe in God…” He was speaking of an actual tangible, visible belief.
Now I’m going to teach you a little Greek grammar just to clarify my point. This word is spoken in what is called the
3. Indicative or Imperative.
What all that means is that your belief is occurring in real time, now. It is active; that is there is an action taking place, namely; your belief. And then it is indicative. Your actions are indicative of what you believe. You are what you believe! Imperative simply means a command has gone forth and our belief is our visible obedience to that command.
Let me illustrate further. We know from the scriptures that we are born dead in trespasses and sins, that we are all helpless, unable to fix the problem which is the broken relationship between us and God. Dead people do not respond to any outward stimuli. We could preach the gospel to a corpse till we’re black in the face and there will be no response.
But God, (Eph 2:4-6) “being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,: (Ro 8:3) “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, (that is through our inability to meet Gods standard of perfection by perfectly obeying His commandments) God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,
God called and we responded. Think of Lazarus as an example of God doing what we cannot. I’m sure Mary and Martha pleaded with Lazarus to come back as they wept over his body. But there was no response. They laid him in the tomb and closed the door upon a dead man. But God! God came after four days. God spoke! And when God speaks everyone listens. The Divine imperative, the Holy command went forth from the lips of the Almighty; the one who is The Life, the One who has life in Himself and bestows that life on anyone whom He chooses. And Lazarus obeyed. And His obedience was tangible, visible. His obedience was present, active and indicative.
So let’s take what we have learned about faith and see how it applies to out text which is found in Romans 4:1-8. We are dealing with Abraham who is called ‘the father of the faithful.’ Paul says; 1 “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. Remember what we saw in the Romans 8 passage? “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh… again specifically, what we were not able to accomplish because we could not perfectly obey the law of God… Abraham could not achieve perfection any more than we can! If he could have, then he could have boasted in his own salvation. That is, he could have said; “I saved myself!” I became so good, so pure, so perfect that God had to accept me into His family! He had no choice. I fulfilled the requirements of the law perfectly! If this were the case, if we could achieve sinless perfection in this life, then there was no reason for Jesus to come and die on the Cross for His sacrifice was needless…if we could accomplish our own salvation!
And then Ephesians 2:8-10 would read thus; “we are saved by works and not by grace or faith so that everyone can boast. We are our own workmanship making ourselves right with God by our own choice and doing what we want to according to our own will.” Do you see the blasphemy here! God had mercy. God had compassion. God bestowed grace and faith. God spoke life into our dead souls and we became living beings in Christ Jesus our Lord! Listen to how William Tyndale translated (Eph 2:8-10) 8 For by grace are ye made safe throwe faith, and that not of your selves: For it is the gift of God, 9 and cometh not of works, lest any man should boast himself. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Iesu unto good works, unto the which God ordained us before, that we should walk in them.”
Paul says just this: 3 For what does the Scripture say? What does the word of God say? What does God Himself say of salvation? It is this “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, where did that belief come from? Where did that faith come from? It was the gift of God and not of works. God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees. Lets take a look at his call. We find it in (Genesis 11:1-4) “Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; 2 and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; 3 and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” 4 So Abram went forth as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan.
What do we see here? We see God visiting Abram in the land of the Chaldees. Now the Chaldeans were a warlike people who worshiped the god Marduk. This worship included sexual immorality and human sacrifice. We must assume that before God called Abram, he was a faithful worshiper of all the gods of the Babylonians and participated in all of their wickedness. This is quite different than what we assume to be the case. I believe that what is going on in your minds is the same that has gone on in mine for many years; that somehow Abram was different, that he didn’t like what was going on in his country etc. But do you see what we are doing to Abram. We are making him a saint who was so good, God just had to choose him.
Such is not the case. Abram/Abraham was just like you and me. When God called him, He called him out of darkness and into God’s marvelous light. He bestowed grace and faith upon Abraham. Suddenly Abraham knew the truth and the truth set him free. He believed God which means he obeyed God’s command for God’s call is His command. God said; Go forth… and we see in verse 4 that Abram did exactly what God commanded. He demonstrated his belief with action. His belief was tangible, visible. It could be measured by deeds. James said in (James 2:18) “But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you (demonstrate, prove to you, literally reveal to your eyes) my faith by my works.”
Abraham didn’t grunt up his faith of his own volition. He was given faith. God’s call is His command and His enabling. When God called Abraham, He revealed Himself to Abraham. He drew Abraham out of his wickedness and saved his soul. He made Abraham a new creature in Christ Jesus and caused him to walk in newness of life. He called Abraham out of his old life and into the new and living way. And Abraham believed God, exercised his belief by obeying God. He took his family and left to follow after God, “AND IT (his obedience) WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Notice this truth. God credited! Everything always points back to God who imputes and justifies and credits. Abraham exercised his God given faith and it was credited by God. His obedience was the outward evidence of the inward imputed righteousness of God to Him. His faith was the gift of God, not of works lest he should be able to boast!
Paul now emphasizes his point saying in verse 4 “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.” In other words, if you go to your place of employment and do your job, your employer owes you for your labor. You have earned your wages by your deeds. Consider how Jesus spoke of the Pharisees earning what they worked for. They did all of their ‘deeds’ to be seen of men, to receive the praise of men. And Jesus said, “They have their reward”; they have received that for which they have labored.
Abraham however is said to have believed God, trusted that God would do exactly what He said He would do! He ceased from laboring to earn the favor of his gods by pagan sacrifice in its various forms and instead He rested in the finished work of God. God said; “I will give” and Abraham believed God! Paul states this in verse 5 saying; “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, The contrast here is clear. Look with me at two passages that emphasize this very point. First we have the example of the ungodly who are trying to work their way in to God’s favor. Paul says in (Ro 10:3) For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
Then in (2Co 5:21) we see the hand of God. We could not save ourselves nor could we make ourselves righteous by our deeds but God had mercy “For while we were helpless, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly and He (God) made Him (Jesus Christ) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. And His righteousness has been imputed, credited to us! In (Tit 3:5) Paul tells us that “He (God) saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,”
It’s by grace I’ve been saved; it’s through faith and not by anything I’ve done. God is the initiator and we are merely the responders. Like Lazarus we respond to God’s call by walking out of the grave of self in response to His voice! And this is not of ourselves! We respond as God ‘girds up our loins.’ You see, we are dead to the things of God, we are blind to the truth of God and we are lame so that we cannot walk toward God of our own volition. God must resurrect us, un-blind our eyes and give strength to our legs. When He calls, He does all of this. And so again you see that all praise and honor and glory go to Him who sits on the throne!
We rest in the sovereign grace of God alone. It is God who calls, God who saves, God who enables us to respond to Him. It is God. It’s by faith, imputed faith, God bestowed faith that we believe. So we must say with Paul…“But by the grace of God I am what I am…” (1Co 15:10)
And what are we? Lets go back to our text and see. Verse 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7 “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. 8 “BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT.” Do you feel blessed today? According to God’s word, He has washed away the stain of your guilt. He has forgiven you of your sins. Look with me to (Col 2:13-4) “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
(Romans 8:1-2 31-39) “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Ps 103:12) “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
Blessed are those who have been interfered with by God; who like Paul have been arrested on their way down the broad road that leads to destruction and have been placed on the path that leads to life. All this He has accomplished for us in the sacrifice of His Son. He has taken us out of the land of paganism; of darkness and sin and has placed us into the light of His dear Son. He has made us “heirs of God and joint heirs of Christ. Does this not refresh your soul? Are you not filled with gratefulness to God for what He has accomplished?
We come today to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and to remember the terrible suffering and death of our Lord on our behalf. I say celebrate because “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Ro 8:2) We come to remember that great gift of God when through His Son Jesus Christ; peace came to earth and good will to men. And it is good to remember this for there are so many distractions, so many things that take us captive that we need to just get away and look to Jesus and remember that we are not our own, but we have been bought with a price, the price of blood.
I want to use Elijah as an illustration to comfort and encourage you this morning. In the early church the Lord’s Supper was called the “Viaticum” or sacrament of maintenance. In preparation for the long journey of life the Supper was an occasion when minds an hearts were stirred and consecration was deepened; when believers were re-equipped for the days ahead.
Now consider Elijah. After God had demonstrated His mighty power on Mount Carmel, after the 450 prophets of Baal had been killed, after the rain had come and after Elijah had outrun King Ahab’s chariot to the city of Jezreel, a time of trial came. The evil Jezebel declared with an oath that Elijah was a dead man and the victory of the day was forgotten as Elijah ran for his life. He ran from Jezreel to Beersheba, 95 miles away. And since that wasn’t far enough, he left his servant in Beersheba and went another day’s journey into the wilderness. Exhausted and overcome by despair he flung himself down under a broom tree and slept.
But God hadn’t left him even though he seemed to believe it to be so. Twice an angel woke him and fed him with a cake and water.
We often stand in the same place that Elijah stood at that moment. There are many days when we are overcome by weariness due to the trials of our faith. The temptation toward despondency is sometimes overwhelming. We somehow feel abandon by God even though we have received the promise from the lips of Jesus who said; “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
So how does the Supper refresh our souls? It is a reminder of the grace of God to us, the eternal salvation that God Himself has wrought in our lives. As we partake of the supper we do so in remembrance of Him who knew no sin but became sin on our behalf.
We are called to remember Him who never forgets us… “Even to your old age and grey hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” (Isa 46:4)
The Lords Supper takes us back to a place of hallowed memory. It reminds us that, even though we may be having a hard time on the road of life, there is One who has walked the road ahead of us. He knew its loneliness and its sorrow for He was a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief. He went all the way to the bitter end, Golgotha.
Elijah went in the strength of the heaven sent food for forty days and forty nights; all the way to Mount Horeb, the mountain of God. How greatly was he refreshed and sustained by Gods provision for his journey. But the Supper is more than the wonderful hallowed memory of the ultimate sacrifice. It is also a season of communion with Him whom our soul loveth! Elijah was visited by God under the broom tree and in the cave at Horeb. We too are visited by God at His table which He prepares for us in the presence of our enemies. By faith we meet with Him here and commune with Him as friend to Friend. And like Elijah we are refreshed by His presence and equipped for the days ahead.
As we prepare to partake of the Lord’s Supper I ask that we take some time now and commune with Him and hear Him as He tells us to “arise and eat for the journey is too great for you” for “apart from Me you can do nothing!” but with Paul let us say with confidence that “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me!” As you bow your heads before our Gracious Lord I ask you to pray in your hearts to Him the 139th Psalm; specifically verses 23-24. Let this truly be our prayer before the Throne of Grace! “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; 24 and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.”